12 Months of Skiing, From Chile to China

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Sure, there's snow somewhere every month of the year, but what can you expect if you want to ski in, say, New Zealand in July? We enlisted writers who have traveled the world on skis to let you know what you can expect during ski season around the world. Weather can be fickle, but based on previous years, here are suggestions for where to be when.

JANUARY

Canada: Silver Star, British Columbia

Chances are, you've never heard of Silver Star, a resort with an unpretentious mom-and-pop feel that is outshone by Whistler Blackcomb far to the west. But this resort in the sunny Okanagan Valley, about five-and-a-half hours east of Vancouver, offers the perks of a larger operation. The place has just six main lifts (not including a connector T-bar and magic carpets) on a measly 6,282-foot-high summit, but those lifts deliver you to 3,065 acres of skiing on 115 named runs with a decent 2,500-vertical-foot drop. Much of Silver Star's 275-inch annual snowfall comes in lighter and drier than Whistler's coastal sludge, especially during January storms. Even if conditions turn bad, you can cross-country ski on some 62 gorgeous miles of groomed trails -- some of which are reachable from the ski lifts, a rare treat. In the village below, you'll find a lovely but sleepy base area of brightly painted frontier-style buildings that house a modest spa, an enticing bakery, several restaurants and -- not much else. Go elsewhere to party. (skisilverstar.com) TIM NEVILLE

Morocco: Oukaimeden and Michlifen

With about 12 miles of on- and off-piste runs and a high point of about 10,000 feet, Oukaimeden is said to have the highest lift in North Africa. The closest luxury resort, Bab Ourika, an 18-room property styled like a Berber fortress, is 40 minutes away. But Michael Diamond of Heritage Tours (htprivatetravel.com), a travel operator that specializes in Morocco, wrote in an e-mail that it's possible to organize it as a day trip from Marrakesh, a 90-minute drive away. The best months to ski are January and February, but, Mr. Diamond said, "It's pretty unpredictable. Some years there are only a few weeks of skiable snow." Farther south, near Fez, is a lower altitude mountain resort called Michlifen. Although it has even less snow coverage than Oukaimeden, the reopening of the restored palatial Michlifen Ifrane hotel (michlifenifrane.com) has won it some attention, though most guests, the hotel concedes, try the spa rather than the slopes. GISELA WILLIAMS

South Korea: 02

Tucked deep in the Taebaek Mountains of northeastern South Korea is a four-year old ski resort for families, named 02, which, given the clear, crisp air, seems appropriate. Though it is not situated on the most challenging mountain, the resort offers some of Korea's longest runs: one goes from the top of the 4,659-foot-high peak all the way down to the main lodge -- a glorious two-mile glide with spectacular views that intermediate skiers can enjoy. And because 02 sits in a region known for having one of the heaviest snowfalls and longest winters in South Korea, the base is reliably thick during the season, from December to March. The resort offers clean, spartan accommodations, and if you want to go more local than just eating kimchi, request an ondol room and sleep on a yo -- a cozy Korean futon mattress laid out on a heated floor. (www.o2resort.com/english) CRAIG SMITH

FEBRUARY

Japan: Niseko United

Big, rural and mountainous, the island of Hokkaido is like the Montana of Japan. Beater pickups trundle past cattle ranches. Streams as clear as sake hold fat fish ready to swallow a fly. And come winter, when frigid Siberian fronts rumble with moisture from the Sea of Japan, snow as fine as air falls in apocalyptic proportions. That's when buses in the island's capital city, Sapporo (a one-and-a-half-hour flight north from Tokyo), begin whisking skiers off to Niseko, a four-resort complex on 4,291-foot Niseko Annupuri mountain. Don't let that low elevation fool you: once up top, you have a leg-burning 3,084-vertical-foot drop on about 30 miles of slopes with names like Snorkel that hint at the 45-foot annual snowfall that wallops the peak. And don't expect hot dogs in the lodge for lunch. Instead, take off your skis at midmountain huts like Boyo-so for steaming bowls of sansai soba, a soup with wild vegetables, and shots of hot sake. At the end of the day, head to the nearby Yukichichibu onsen to soak in six outdoor mineral baths, including one with silky-soft mud. (niseko.ne.jp/en) TIM NEVILLE

United States: Vail, Colorado

When the United States Army veterans Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton hiked up an unnamed Colorado mountain in 1957 in search of good ski terrain, they discovered the vast potential of what would become Vail, now one of the country's biggest and best-known resorts. Fifty years after first cranking up its lifts, Vail celebrates its golden anniversary this winter with a packed slate of events. In addition to reliable snow across the area's 193 trails, this February features two multiday on-mountain events. At the Winter Mountain Games presented by Eddie Bauer, Feb. 8 to 10, athletes race in categories like ice climbing, ski mountaineering, snowshoeing and on-snow mountain biking. And the Burton U.S. Open, the world's longest-running snowboarding competition, has moved from Vermont to Vail, where it runs Feb. 25 to March 2. (vail.com) CINDY HIRSCHFELD

MARCH

Japan: Shiga Kogen

Long before skiing arrived in the Japanese Alps, hot springs were the main attraction, drawing not only vacationers but also Japanese macaques, known to the world as snow monkeys, which walk upright into the natural baths. Now there is a different reason to visit. The region, just east of the city of Nagano, is home to some of Asia's best skiing, particularly Shiga Kogen, a network of interconnected resorts with more than 50 lifts and hundreds of runs. You can ski for days without taking the same run twice, and the high altitude -- above 6,500 feet -- gives the area one of Asia's longest ski seasons, from late November to the end of April. And Shiga Kogen's sprawling size means that the slopes are rarely crowded, with lifts that often have no lines at all. Many of the ski area's hotels are built around hot springs, and if you want to spend a half-day off the slopes, forget tubing. Visit the Jigokudani Monkey Park to see the macaques meditating in the water. (ski-shigakogen.net) CRAIG SMITH

United States: Stevens Pass, Washington

The Cascade mountains are among the snowiest places in the United States. And because the flakes are usually heavy and wet, the snow sticks around for most of the spring. Stevens Pass is no exception. With an average of 457 inches a year -- 110 in March and April alone -- it is a prime place for spring skiing. Ten lifts cover 1,125 acres of terrain and 37 runs at this 75-year-old resort known for its steep lines and excellent tree skiing. The chutes under the 7th Heaven lift, which puts skiers on the path to the 5,845-foot Cowboy Mountain, are so steep that there is room for only one set of lift towers between the bottom and the top of the chairlift. A short traverse to Cowboy Ridge finds much of the same: short, fluted chutes. Tree skiing through tall evergreens on adjacent Big Chief Mountain is a local favorite -- as is forgoing the resort's three-day lodges for a camper in the RV lot, which offers full power hookups and allows overnight stays. (stevenspass.com) PORTER FOX

APRIL

United States: Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon

The Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon are more Rockies than Cascades, with crenelated ridges, imposing cirques and 400 annual inches of snow that pile up light and dry. But unlike those other well-skied ranges, these Swiss-like summits that soar to nearly 10,000 feet are new to even many Oregonians. The most impressive of these monsters lie deep in the 547-square-mile Eagle Cap Wilderness, where backcountry skiers can find virtually limitless untracked runs, many of which have yet to be named. There are no lifts, of course, but Wallowa Alpine Huts brings a bit of comfort to this remote, frosty playground with exclusive access to a series of cozy yurts and cabins with wood stoves and simple beds tucked into basins close to slopes like Pope's Nose and Chocolate Chip, which offer runs of about 1,100 vertical feet. Though you can get powder days even in May, in spring the brutal storms that lash the range tend to subside, leaving the backcountry trifecta of warm skies, long days and cold, fluffy snow on north-facing slopes. (wallowahuts.com) TIM NEVILLE

United States: Valdez Heli-Ski Guides, Alaska

For many expert skiers and snowboarders, heli-skiing is the holy grail, and there's no more sought-after destination than Alaska, where the terrain is steep and wild and the snowpack is generally more predictable than in other, more avalanche-prone regions. April's longer days and milder weather make it a perfect time to go. One entry point can be found 30 miles from Valdez, on Thompson Pass in the Chugach Mountains. The recently reopened 24-room Tsaina Lodge lies next to the helipad for Valdez Heli-Ski Guides, which operates within a 2,500-square-mile permit area of glacier-carved terrain that makes the typical ski-area run seem like a highway on-ramp. Twenty years ago the lodge, in its more rugged incarnation, drew pro skiers hungry to explore the uncharted terrain. Now transformed into a more upscale haven, the lodge aims to attract those who end their ski days with three-course meals and a restful night in a Tempur-Pedic bed. What hasn't changed is the area's abundant snowfall -- up to a whopping 1,000 inches annually on the high peaks -- and the exhilaration of etching turns in untracked powder. (valdezheliskiguides.com) CINDY HIRSCHFELD

MAY

France: Vallée Blanche

From the Place de l'Église in Chamonix, France, the icy summit of 15,781-foot Mont Blanc looks miles up and away, which it is -- more than 12,000 vertical feet over town. Though Western Europe's highest peak offers plenty of skiing year round for those willing to hike for it, lazier mortals have far easier options for finding snow in early spring. The Vallée Blanche, a glacier-filled gash northeast of Mont Blanc, is arguably one of the most spectacular backcountry ski runs that adventurous snow hounds could hope for. The journey starts with a cable car up the Aiguille du Midi, a 12,605-foot-high rock needle sewing up the troposphere. It's all downhill from there. During good snow years, the gentle, blue-like run of the "classic route" following two glaciers can last a whopping 12 miles with upward of 7,000 vertical feet of skiing. No need to rush with views like these: a fiendish jawbone of the Alps' most impressive and storied peaks -- the Aiguille Verte, Les Drus and, of course, Mont Blanc. The Montenvers railway that typically ferries skiers back to Chamonix closes in May, so pack some tennis shoes and enjoy the two-hour hike along the ice to get back home. Be forewarned: The Vallée Blanche is not a resort run, and every year people fall into crevasses, so hire a guide. (high-alpine.com). TIM NEVILLE

JUNE

Canada: Whistler Blackcomb

From mid-June through July, the Blackcomb Mountain side of Whistler hosts a scene that's more Southern California than Alpine resort. On the 7,500-foot-elevation Horstman Glacier, skiers and riders, some in shorts and bikini tops, ply their boards on intermediate-level terrain, while others slather on the sunscreen and take an extended lunch break on the patio of the European-style Horstman hut. Nightly grooming and salting keep the snow firm, while the blue-gray glacial ice visible under the snow adds an ethereal effect. Public access starts at 11 a.m., and reaching the glacier requires a 45-minute series of lift rides; those who make the trek regularly are the passionate die-hards always in search of a place to ski. Two T-bars serve the 93-acre glacier itself, which offers runs of about 700 vertical feet and includes a small terrain park. At 3 p.m., the last of the skiers must reverse their lift rides, downloading to Blackcomb's base and back into summer. (whistlerblackcomb.com) CINDY HIRSCHFELD

Switzerland: Zermatt

Summer skiing is a novelty more than anything -- a few hours of scratching around on glaciers in shorts and a T-shirt -- but even so, the experience can be pretty great, especially in a place as visually exotic as Zermatt. Home to the Matterhorn, the Swiss ski resort claims to have the highest and biggest summer skiing operation in Europe with about 15 miles of runs and eight lifts open all summer long to reach terrain as high as 12,500 feet. Up there on the Theodul glacier, powder days are possible, sure, but best to come slathered in sunscreen and ready for fast, carving runs down Interstate-wide beginner and intermediate slopes that plummet as much as 3,200 vertical feet. The views into verdant valleys some 7,200 feet below are spectacular, of course, with picturesque huts offering sun decks and beer to help soak up panoramas of some of the Alps' highest peaks. (zermatt.ch) TIM NEVILLE

United States: Timberline, Oregon

Skiing on a volcano during the longest days of the year? It's possible at this ski area on the south side of Mount Hood, 60 miles east of Portland. Palmer snowfield, a 100-some-acre swath of permafrost, retains layers of the previous winter's snowpack. The area, suitable for intermediate and advanced skiers and riders, usually opens daily from June 1 to Labor Day (and on weekends in September and October). Conditions peak in early summer, when you can ski about 2,500 vertical feet to the main base and the massive Timberline Lodge, a National Historic Landmark. Later on, when snow melts on the runs below the snowfield, skiers ride down a chairlift to reach the base. About a quarter of Palmer opens daily to the public, and includes a terrain park with jumps, rails and other features. Since the lifts run from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., you'll still have time in the afternoon to hike to a high-mountain lake in the surrounding Mount Hood National Forest, white-water raft on the Deschutes River, or enjoy the lodge's ambience while petting its two St. Bernard mascots. (timberlinelodge.com) CINDY HIRSCHFELD

JULY

Australia: Perisher and Thredbo

If you think bigger is better and you want to ski in July, head to Perisher, a complex of four interconnected ski resorts in the Snowy Mountains of southeastern New South Wales in Australia. The resort, which is billed as the largest ski area in the Southern Hemisphere, has enough lifts -- 47 in all -- to keep everyone happy. Perisher starts relatively high (5,400 feet) and has invested heavily in snow-making equipment, guaranteeing more snow than lower-lying Australian ski areas. But with only 6,700 vertical feet of mountain to work with, the result is relatively short runs. For longer runs and a less family-focused crowd, Thredbo, a nearby ski resort, is a good option. Its runs start lower on the mountain, though, so the bottom can turn into a slushy mess when it's warm out. Both areas are open from June to October, but the heaviest snowfall is in July and August. (perisher.com.au) CRAIG SMITH

New Zealand: Treble Cone

Some Southern Hemisphere ski resorts appeal to North American skiers more for the novelty of skiing in summer than for the challenge and variety of terrain. Not Treble Cone, the largest ski area on New Zealand's South Island. This 1,359-acre resort straddles four above-treeline basins, offering super-wide, impeccably groomed runs for intermediates as well as long, steep trails and cliff-studded chutes favored by expert skiers. (Only 10 percent of trails are designated as beginner.) Snow quality is another draw, as the resort's location on the eastern edge of the Southern Alps acts as a magnet for storms dumping dry powder. The second half of July and later, after the country's annual school vacations have ended, is the best time to visit. Lodging is available in the pretty lakeside town of Wanaka, 16 miles east, or in Queenstown, 62 miles south. (treblecone.com) CINDY HIRSCHFELD

United States: Mount Bachelor, Oregon

Rocky Mountain skiers often deride the heavy maritime snow of the Pacific Northwest as "Cascade cement," but its dense consistency helps heaps of it stick around into summer. Toss in the hot days and chilly nights of warmer months, and the snowpack, often a 16-foot-thick slab of "cement," transforms into the next best thing after powder -- a soft, silky phenomenon called corn snow. For the past two summers on or around the Fourth of July, workers at the largest ski area in Oregon, Mount Bachelor, have fired up two of the mountain's 10 lifts for a weekend to let skiers and snowboarders harvest that corn with fast, forgiving turns off the top of the 9,065-foot-high volcano. If there's enough snow to warrant opening again this July, bring $30 for a ticket, put on a T-shirt and sunscreen and zoom more than 1,700-vertical feet down Beverly Hills, a blue intermediate run, for starters. More advanced skiers may want to go east from the top to explore Cows Face, a wide open slope with sweeping views over Oregon's high desert. Sorry, no fireworks. Head into Bend for that, about 30 minutes east. (mtbachelor.com) TIM NEVILLE

AUGUST

Argentina: Las Leñas

Las Leñas, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2013, is undeniably remote. The easiest way to get there is to take a weekly charter flight from Buenos Aires to a small airport an hour's drive away. But skiers who make the journey are rewarded with some of the best and most diverse expert terrain in the world, ranging from vast bowls to svelte, rock-bordered chutes. Though the trail map lists just 29 runs, anywhere on this large Andes peak is fair game, including thousands of acres of backcountry slopes reachable from the Marte lift that eventually funnel back to the base area. (Hire a guide to help safely navigate.) Beginners and intermediates have plenty of wide-open terrain to explore on the mountain's gentler lower half, where another quad lift was added last season. Several ski-in/ski-out hotels and condo complexes make up the fairly utilitarian base area, but you don't come all this way for a spa. (laslenas.com) CINDY HIRSCHFELD

South Africa: Tiffindell Ski Resort

Tiffindell, South Africa's only ski and snowboarding resort, opened in 1993 near Rhodes, on the remote southern slopes of the Drakensberg Mountains. But the resort closed in 2010 after falling into disrepair during a legal battle between the owner and property developers. In July, Lew Campbell, who owns an artificial ski-training slope in Johannesburg, bought Tiffindell at auction for about $730,000. He's invested another $560,000 in building upgrades, snow-making machines and ski equipment. The 192-bed resort reopens year-round in January 2013. It has snow from June to August, but let's be honest: it will never compete with the big leagues. With only 57 acres of skiable terrain, Tiffindell Ski Resort is less than one one-hundredth of the size of Whistler Blackcomb. Yet what it lacks in size and sophistication it makes up for in South African hospitality. Visitors who schlep up the gravel roads, past cattle grazing on grassy hills, will be met by local English-, Afrikaans- and Xhosa-speaking staff members. Skiers can expect sunny and dry winter days, and après-ski aficionados bored with Aspen's bourbon milkshakes may get a kick out of Tiffindell's boerwors, a South African spiced sausage. (tiffindell.co.za) GRETCHEN L. WILSON

SEPTEMBER

Chile: Portillo

Portillo offers an old-school ski-resort experience about 100 miles northeast of Santiago, in the Andes, attracting a loyal clientele that includes many North Americans. The ski area's 35 runs range from gentle groomers to nerve-rattling steeps, and all are above tree line, showcasing views of lofty peaks and glistening Laguna del Inca. Expert skiers head for the ungroomed slopes served by surface lifts that make an adventure of the ride up. In typical South American style, the partying goes late, with dinner at the Hotel Portillo served after 8 p.m., live music nightly at the bar and post-midnight shimmying at the disco. Not surprisingly, mornings are leisurely, but with lodging for only 450 skiers, there's no mad rush for first tracks. Après-ski, a full schedule of games, movies, lectures, wine tastings, fitness classes and kids' activities, encourages mingling. In the hotel's large lounge, you may rub elbows with pro skiers and snowboarders on magazine photo shoots or World Cup ski racers. For 2013, some rooms are being updated with sleeker furnishings and muted textiles -- big news at a place that oozes tradition. (www.skiportillo.com) CINDY HIRSCHFELD

New Zealand: Turoa and Whakapapa Ski Areas

You can't get much closer to the dichotomy of fire and ice than skiing on Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand's largest active volcano and the setting for scenes of Mount Doom in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy. There are two ski areas on the mountain: Turoa Ski Area on the southwestern slopes, which claims to have Australia and Asia's longest vertical descent and New Zealand's highest lift, and Whakapapa Ski Area on the northwestern slopes, which claims to be New Zealand's largest ski area, with more than 65 trails. The vent of the volcano's crater is covered by an ice-blue lake, scenic to look at but, volcanists warn, the potential source of a scalding lahar or volcanic mudflow. Ruahepu erupts every 20 to 50 years, and in November scientists began warning of another blow. Both ski areas helpfully provide maps showing the likeliest path of any volcanic flow and a grim dotted line above which skiers might find themselves dodging more than moguls. Lack of snow is rarely a problem, and the terrain at both ski areas is treeless, thanks to past eruptions, with long, wide runs, some of which follow former lava flows. (mtruapehu.com) CRAIG SMITH

OCTOBER

New Zealand: Temple Basin

New Zealand's public ski fields (which throw a rope tow and a warming hut on a hill and call it a resort) have been an anomaly in the skiing world since they opened in the 1930s. Temple Basin, two hours northwest of Christchurch, on the South Island, has been the kingpin of the Kiwi fields since 1948. Since it doesn't open until July, Temple typically stays open until late October. The ski area maintains a mile of rope tows and 800 acres of terrain over 1,400 vertical feet. The wide, treeless bowls -- set in the Tolkien-esque beauty of Arthur's Pass National Park -- are perfect for novices and intermediates. Experts typically head straight for the thousands of acres of backcountry hemming the resort's boundaries. Dozens of ski movies and magazine covers have been shot on Mount Temple, a short hike from the top of the Downhill tow. Cassidy tow delivers skiers to a broad basin with mellow beginner and intermediate runs. The fields were designed to provide cheap skiing for club members, and an all-inclusive three-day package runs $340. Accommodations are bunk beds in a traditional alpine lodge, with breakfast and dinner included. (templebasin.co.nz) PORTER FOX

NOVEMBER

United States: Killington, Vermont

Killington is capable of pumping 720,000 gallons of water an hour through 240 snow-making guns to cover 80 acres of terrain with 12 inches of snow. No wonder it has consistently been one of the first Eastern resorts to open in the last two decades. (It opened this year on Oct. 15 for season pass holders.) The resort's seven peaks have the highest vertical drop in the East (3,050 feet), the tallest being Killington Peak (4,241 feet). With only 250 inches of annual snowfall, the resort has invested millions of dollars in 1,500 snow-making guns that cover 600 of the resort's 752 acres. The K-1 gondola is the fastest way to the top, and the fastest way down is Cascade, a thigh-burner directly under the lift. Outer Limits is the most renowned bump run east of the Rockies. Anarchy and Julio offer glades so steep (and occasionally deep) you'll think you're out West. When the sun goes down behind the Green Mountains, there is only one place as rowdy as the hill: the Wobbly Barn, which, built in 1963 from 10 dilapidated outbuildings, is still giving the greatest après parties in New England. (killington.com/winter/index.html) PORTER FOX

DECEMBER

China: Huaibei Ski Resort and Wanlong Ski Resort

So you want to ski the Great Wall of China? Well, you can't, really, but you can ski in sight of it, albeit as more of a novelty trip than a serious ski adventure. About an hour north of Beijing, where one of the many tendrils of the Ming dynasty wall traces a spine of the Yanshan mountain range, lies Huaibei Ski Resort. Its stark stripe of white snow standing out in the brown landscape tells you one thing you need to know about skiing near Beijing: winters there are bone dry. All the ski resorts within driving distance of the capital rely heavily on artificial snow, and that means ice becomes a hazard as the day wears on. That said, Huaibei offers fresh air and one long run that is rarely crowded because most of the action takes place on the bunny slopes. If you are set on more serious skiing, you can take a three- to four-hour drive from Beijing to Wanlong Ski Resort, a newer, more expansive area than Huaibei. Wanlong has more than 20 trails and attracts a more upscale crowd. While you can't see the Great Wall, you are not far from it. CRAIG SMITH

United States: Alta, Utah

The ski school director Dick Durrance invented the powder turn, the Dipsy Doodle, at Alta in the 1950s. Sixty years later, Alta still reigns as the powder capital of North America. Topping out at 10,550 feet with 2,020 vertical feet of skiing and an average of 560 inches of snow every year, Alta averages a powder day (nine or more inches of fresh snow) every 10 days. The unique topography of Little Cottonwood Canyon, where the resort sits, allows it to receive snowfall from a number of different storm flows, in addition to lake effect snow coming off Great Salt Lake. Locals head straight for classic runs like High Rustler and Eagle's Nest on a powder day, then wait for patrollers to open Ballrom, so they can ski to the steeps of Baldy Shoulder. The tree-skiing shots off the Supreme lift hold snow for days after a storm, especially since Alta has maintained its no-snowboarding rule. The only thing that seems to have changed since 1950 is that you can now buy a combo lift ticket and get to Snowbird from the top of the Sugarloaf lift. (alta.com) PORTER FOX

United States: Silverton Mountain, Colorado

Silverton Mountain is the highest-elevation ski area in North America (13,487 feet) and the best bet for early-season snow. With an annual average of 400 inches, the snowpack lasts well into April. Jen and Aaron Brill designed Silverton (a stone's throw from Telluride in the heart of the San Juan Mountains in southern Colorado) in the spirit of the grass roots public ski fields of New Zealand. The concept: skiers ride a 1973 double chair (which the Brills bought from Mammoth) to the top, then find their way down through a spray of 3,000-vertical-foot couloirs, bowls, trees and snowfields. What that means for guests is an average of 80 skiers a day on the mountain; fresh powder stashes weeks after a storm; zero lift lines. Be forewarned, the easiest trail is steeper than a black diamond at most resorts. (silvertonmountain.com) PORTER FOX

travel

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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